The Carpenters

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter was almost the nicest superstar I ever met. I got to play volleyball with her, on her side of the net, the first time they played at concert at KSC in Cushing Coliseum. She had a bad cold but still was like any other young 21 year old and MAN could she hit those drums, and to sing at the same time. She had a small tom-tom rack of 4 drums, that I think is credited to Hal Blaine, and she smacked the crap out of those in a signature Carpenter's drum style - the slow roto toms/ synth drum riff a bit later in recordings. The 2nd time they played at KSC was a payback for for her not making it thru the last song of their 1st concert set, when she collapsed on the drums. Two more minutes and they would never had done the repeat visit. It's ironic that the first visit was part of the NEC block booking that colleges gave to the Carpenters. It consisted of 30 to 50 dates, all at the same price and they were thrilled with the work and winning the block booking - until two songs went number #1 and they were stuck fulfilling their block booking obligation. If she could have finished the second half of the last song, they never would have played Kearney Nebraska. TWICE! The 2nd time around they hired drummer, "Cubby" from Mickey Mouse Club, to play drums and they were making 10 x times the dough per show, so they must have been a bit frustrated but you would never know it from Karen and Richard, or the Band's performance. They were Pros and really GOOD people. When Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show asked Richard Carpenter "what's the worst gig you've ever done?" It wasn't Disneyland where they suffered for some time, he said "It was KSC in Kearney Nebraska." I loved that - Sad but true! She was really nice to me (I was still in high school) and I saw the two shows from "back stage" and both times they were excellent. Man.... there's a lot to be said for your Mom or Dad saying "practice" to you and your brothers/sisters. The Carpenters were tighter than a drum and the first time I got to see a Wurlitzer electric piano up close, the tremolo was excellent and even though it didn't sound like a real piano, it gave the Carpenters part of their unique sound. MAN she could sing and smack the drums at the same time, what a talent. And Richard is a genius, and what a memory to remember, for me. What a great gift they gave all of us through their talents and music - Thank-you Richard and Karen!

Jim Salestrom